Advances in science and technology drive the economic growth of a nation. In order to ensure continued economic growth, a workforce that is well-trained and highly-skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is needed. For a society like Japan where the population is decreasing and ageing at a rapid rate, securing such a workforce in sufficient numbers is a critical issue. In Japan, it is anticipated that by 2030 the working-age population (15–64 years of age) will be 63% of that of 2015. Currently, the economic participation of women in Japan is 59.5% of that for men. In the field of STEM, the ratio of women among total STEM workers is 16% in 2017, which places Japan at the bottom of 23 developed countries. Further, data show that Japanese women have the talent and qualifications to pursue STEM careers that are equal to men. It seems clear that increasing the participation of women in STEM goes a long way to mitigate the anticipated workforce shortage needed to sustain Japan’s economic growth. There are a number of factors that are preventing full participation of women in STEM. These factors include both conscious and unconscious biases toward women’s ability to pursue scientific careers, and the separate roles for men and women assigned by society. These factors existed/exist in many countries, but some countries have made efforts to increase the participation of women in STEM with success. This article introduces three such efforts: US National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE Institutional Transformation; EU Horizon2020; and UK’s AthenaSWAN. It is hoped that learning best practices from these successful approaches may provide Japan a way forward to break out of the current situation before it is too late.